History of Saints Peter and Paul Church
Ukrainian Catholic Church in Cleveland

Saints Peter and Paul parish was founded in 1909 as the first Ukrainian Church in Greater Cleveland.  The parish gave rise to five separate parishes; St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Church (now Cathedral) in Parma in 1924; the parish of the Patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary in East Cleveland (now Solon) in 1956; St. Josaphat parish (now cathedral), in Parma in 1959; St. Andrew parish in Parma in 1972 ; and Pokrova parish in Parma in 1973.  

 

The early immigrants to Cleveland had to rely upon the good grace of Roman or Ruthenian-Byzantine Catholic priests of non-Ukrainian extraction for their spiritual needs. The early pioneers petitioned Bishop Soter Ortynsky for permission to organize a Ukrainian Catholic parish and the building of a new brick church on the south side of the city at 2280 West 7th Street. Construction began during the tenure of the first pastor, Rev. Wolodymyr Dowhowycz (1909-10). Parishioners donated their time and labors generously in the building of their church and rectory. On September 21, 1910, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Julian Calendar), Metropolitan Archbishop Andrej Sheptytskyj of Lviv, Primate of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, visited the completed structure. The completion of the interior, however, took several additional years.

Saints Peter and Paul Church became the pride and joy of its laborers - parishioners. It became their “kind mother,” the source of their enlightenment, and the key to their ethnic identity and consciousness. These few but hard­working pioneers are remembered on a marble plaque built into the wall of the vestibule of the church. The parish grew quickly and expanded its services. In 1915, Rev. Dmytro Dobrotwor established the Ruthenian Savings and Loan Company to encourage savings among the parishioners and to facilitate their house mortgages.  Rev. Philemon Tarnawsky set up a convent for the Sisters of St. Basil the Great and an orphanage.

Numerous religious associations helped to enrich the life of the parish. The Apostleship of Prayer was founded by Father Tarnawsky in 1919. The Church Choir evolved in the earliest years of the parish and prospered under the direction of the various cantors. The “Boyan” Choir existed from the early 1920s until 1941 under the batons of Bukata, Kohut and Shostachko. The Brotherhood of the Sacred Heart was founded by Father Merenkiw, as well as the Sodality of Mary for girls. Father Merenkiw also established the Sisterhood of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in 1935, which introduced the weekly making and selling of “varenyky” that became a major source of parish funds. The Young Women’s League and the Altar Boys Society were founded in 1941. The Ukrainian Dancers of Cleveland (later known as “League of Ukrainian Dancers”) , came to life in 1941 and became a recognized cultural element of the community. The Men’s and Women’s Athletic Clubs came into being in 1946; the Parents’  Club of the parish school (later PTU) started in 1947. The 1950s witnessed the emergence of the Sodality of Mary for women, the Ladies Auxiliary, the Holy Name Society, the Sacred Heart Club, and the Men’s Club. The League of Ukrainian Catholics (LUC), organized in 1976.

Rev. Basil Merenkiw, our 8th pastor, purchased a farm to provide the parish with a cemetery and its own picnic grounds.

Rev. Dmytro Gresko, who served as pastor from October 4, 1940 until June 30, 1976, presided over the period of greatest growth and expansion following World War II. On September 3, 1947, Father Gresko was able to start a day school which was housed in the Basilian Sisters’ convent. Because of the resettlement of the parishioners to Parma, Father Gresko purchased a ten-acre tract of land on State Road in Parma where he intended to build a major parish center, including a new school. Construction progressed between 1949 and 1951. Realizing the dreams of Rev. Philemon (1916), Rev. Leo Lewycky (1926), and Father Gresko of forming an all day school, in November of 1951, the doors of the new school opened welcoming 135 children enrolled in the first five grades. Besides the Sisters of St. Basil, the faculty was comprised of several lay teachers and also two priests, Rev. Andrew Ulicky and Rev. Myroslaw Lubachivsky, late Patriarch and Cardinal of Our Church. A new convent for the Basilian Sisters was added in 1953, and a second school building was completed in 1954. On June 12, 1955, the first graduation was held. A rectory was added in I960. 

On August 13, 1959, Metropolitan Constantine Bohachevsky converted the State Road complex into the new St. Josaphat parish with Father Andrew Ulicky as its first pastor. The school, established and built by Rev. Msgr. Gresko, was brought under the auspices of the new parish. In accordance with this transfer, the name of the school was changed to “The Ukrainian Catholic School of St. Josaphat in Parma.”

Father Gresko’s endeavors were not confined to the building of the school. He converted part of the field behind the cemetery into a picnic-recreational area with parking facilities. He built a large garage for Saints Peter and Paul rectory and surrounded the entire church property with a brick wall. In 1956, he completed massive renovations of both the exterior and interior of the church. In addition to his pastoral and administrative work for Saints Peter and Paul. Father Gresko functioned for eight years as administrator of the parish in Lorain, Ohio, and saved it from liquidation. In greater Cleveland, he organized three parishes: St. Mary on Kinsman Rd. (East Side) in 1952, St. Josaphat in Parma on State Rd. in 1959, and St. Andrew in Parma on Hoertz Rd. in 1972.

In May 1973, Rev. Msgr. Gresko hosted in Cleveland His Beatitude Yosyf Cardinal Slipyj, Confessor of the Faith and Patriarch of Ukrainian Catholics. On September 23, 1973, the Ukrainian community of Greater Cleveland honored Rev. Msgr. Gresko with a celebration commemorating the 40th Anniversary of his ordination. On November 24, 1974, Rev. Msgr. Gresko was elevated to the rank of Mitred Archpriest by Metropolitan Archbishop Senyshyn. Due to health considerations, on July 1, 1976, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Mitrat Dmytro Gresko turned the parish over to Rev. William Kondusky, with Very Rev. Yaroslaw Sirko as Administrator.

After Msgr. Gresko retired to Florida, Fr. Michael B. Rewtiuk was appointed pastor effective December 1, 1977. In the spring of 1978, he began raising funds for repairs and renovations. Renovations were made possible by the generosity of the parishioners and the re-establishment of the pyrohy project by Fr. Rewtiuk’s mother, Mrs. Anna Rewtiuk-Severyn. The church and iconostas were repainted by local iconographer Elia Hasigan, the parish hall was renovated, and a new roof was put on the church. A two story home adjacent to the church on College Avenue was bought and demolished for a church parking lot. An additional parking lot was constructed behind the rectory. In 1978, a stained glass window was installed above the main church entrance to commemorate the Millennium of Christianity in Rus’-Ukraine (1988). The rectory was also renovated. The entire renovation project took three and a half years.

On December 20, 1983, Pope John Paul II created the Parma Eparchy, the fourth in the Metropolitan Province of Philadelphia. Most Reverend Robert M. Moskal, Auxiliary Bishop to the Metropolitan of Philadelphia, was appointed its first eparch. With the establishment of the new Eparchy and the canonical installation on February 29,1984 of its first bishop, St. Josaphat Church (once a filial church of Saints Peter and Paul) became a Cathedral, and Rev. Michael Rewtiuk became its first pastor.

On February 7, 1984, the Rev. Msgr. John Philip Stevensky became the 12th pastor of Saints Peter and Paul. In 1988, the parish celebrated Rev. Msgr. Stevensky’s silver anniversary of priesthood and a new organization was formed within the parish - The Saints Peter and Paul Senior Citizens Club for parishioners over the age of 50. On June 1, 1985, the 75th Parish Anniversary was enhanced by the visit of His Beatitude Patriarch of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, newly elevated Major Archbishop Myroslav Cardinal Lubachivsky. Patriarch Lubachivsky celebrated Divine Liturgy at Saints Peter and Paul where he once was assistant pastor. Patriarch Lubachivsky also arrived from Rome for the 80th Parish Anniversary. On June 6th, 1990, he concelebrated Divine Liturgy with Most Rev. Robert Moskal, Eparch of St. Josaphat Eparchy in Parma, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Mitred Archpriest Leo Adamiak, Rev. Msgr. Leo Tymkiw, Rev. Msgr. John Stevensky, Rev. Msgr. Michael Rewtiuk, Rev. Msgr. Thomas Sayuk, Rev. Mykhajlo Krupka, Rev. Jaroslaw Mychajlenko, Rev. Andrew Hanovsky, and Deacon Mark Morozowich. A banquet, with 135 people in attendance, was held in the church hall following the liturgy.

Rev. Msgr. Stevensky had the church pews refinished, remodeled the church hall, modernized the hall kitchen, installed parking-lot lights and an alarm system. In April 1990, artist Elia Hasigan did touch up work in the church. In September 1990, Rev. Msgr. John Stevensky was transferred to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary church in Miami, Florida.

On September 2, 1990, Bishop Robert Moskal appointed Rev. Steven Zarichny pastor of Saints Peter and Paul. During his 18 year pastorate, the parish held religious events such as the annual Day of Prayer for the Beatification of Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytskyj, adult religious education classes, and Lenten Mission. Annually from 2000 - 2007, Rev. Father Steven sponsored Healing Services conducted by Sister Monica Marie, SIW, Sister Judith, OSBM, Brother Dale, BHS and Brother David Robert, BHS. On September 1, 2001, an inter-parish Prayer Group was formed and met monthly for liturgy at the Saints Peter and Paul parish until 2008 when meetings were moved to St. Josaphat Cathedral. The Prayer Group (Apostolate) organized religious events such as pilgrimages to Marian Shrines in Ohio — Our Lady of Lebanon Shrine in North Jackson, Our Lady of Mariapoch Shrine in Burton, and Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in Euclid. The parish also held fundraising and community events - St. Nicholas celebrations, Easter “Svyachene”, Easter holiday craft bazaars, Patronal Day dinner, and raffles. The annual Yalynka with bandura performances and group “koliada” became so popular that it continues to this day to be a sold out event.

 

From 1999 to 2007, Brother Dale, BHS and Brother David Robert, BHS of the order of the Brothers of the Holy Spirit served in the parish. On Sunday, March 14, 2004, the parish hosted a celebration to mark the 10th Anniversary of the establishment of their order within the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of St. Josaphat in Parma. 

 

Saints Peter and Paul Parish celebrated the 90th Anniversary of the Parish on Sunday, December 5, 1999. In October 2003, the parish celebrated the 95th Anniversary of its founding and the 25th Anniversary of Rev. Father Zarichny’s ordination.

 

Renovations during this period included a new roof for the church, repair of dome, gold-leafing of Iconostas, installation of new church doors, installation of air conditioning in the church hall, and the addition of new refrigeration to the hall kitchen. On September 28, 2008, Rev. Father Zarichny was transferred to Holy Trinity Church in Youngstown, OH.

On October 1, 2008, Very Rev. Canon Andrew G. Hanovsky began his work as Saints Peter and Paul’s 14th pastor. He immediately began raising funds for renovations of the church and rectory. With the financial assistance of Saints Peter and Paul parishioners and a number of friends from neighboring parishes, Very Rev. Hanovsky undertook repairs on the rectory roof, installed new windows on the second floor of the rectory, restored and repainted the church rectory. In June 2010, the interior renovation of the church was completed. The interior restoration included the repainting of the main nave, choir, ceiling, sanctuary and the renovation of the “iconostas”- icons and gilding. Exterior renovations will include repairing the walls and fence surrounding the parish property.

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The centennial committee, including all subcommittees, started work in 2009 in preparation for the parish centennial celebration in 2010. The first event of this celebration was the parish Yalynka which took place on January 31, 2010, at which time the newly appointed apostolic administrator of St. Josaphat eparchy in Parma, Ohio, Bishop John Bura, visited the parish and celebrated the Divine Liturgy. Very Rev. Canon Andrew G. Hanovsky organized religious celebrations throughout the centennial year in each of the parishes formed from the Mother Parish of Saints Peter and Paul Church - St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedra] (Parma), St. Mary Parish (Solon), St. Josaphat Cathedral (Parma), St. Andrew (Parma), and Pokrova Parish (Parma).

A Parish Feast Day and Picnic was held on June 27, 2010 on the parish grounds. His Grace, Most Reverend John Bura, presided over the Divine Liturgy and was joined by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Mitred Archpriest Michael B. Rewtiuk, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Mitred Archpriest Michael Poloway, Very Rev. Canon Andrew G. Hanovsky, Rev. Ihor Kasiyan, Rev. Michael Kulick, Rev. Archdeacon Jeffrey Smolilo, Rev. Deacon Roman Turchyn, Rev. Subdeacon Joseph Zappernick, and Rev. Subdeacon Dmytro Hryciuk.

Picnic festivities were held outside under tents and in the church hall where 400 people enjoyed a buffet lunch, craft vendors and live music. On September 18th, a Centennial Banquet and Dance was held at the St. Josaphat Astrodome and a Pontifical Divine Liturgy on September 19th, 2010 at Saints Peter and Paul Church. 

During its 100 year existence, the parish of Saints Peter and Paul has been served by 14 pastors, 17 administrators, and 21 assistants. From this mother parish was formed a school, a convent, an orphanage, 2 cathedrals and 3 parishes. It has provided a religious and secular haven to generations of Ukrainian immigrants and their descendants so they could practice their religious and cultural traditions. Many people still have ties to Saints Peter and Paul and proudly speak about their relatives that were baptized, married, and buried from our church. Others talk about their memories as children of the overflowing crowds of faithful that attended the services. A few can even trace their origins to the founders of the parish - those hardworking immigrants that founded and sustained this parish as they carved out a Ukrainian Community in a new land.

The popularity of the Centennial events is a testament to the dedication and kinship that so many of our Ukrainian people feel toward Saints Peter and Paul Parish - the Mother Church of Ukrainians in Cleveland. With such support, we hope that Saints Peter and Paul Parish will continue to serve for generations to come.